Singapore officials debunk S’pore-India trade pact myths

Singapore’s Health Minister has defended the India Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (Ceca) in a ministerial statement.

Singapore skyline.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung says free trade pacts have become a keystone of Singapore’s economic superstructure. Picture: Jason Goh from Pixabay

CAPE TOWN, July 7 (ANA) – Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, the former deputy chief negotiator for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, defended the India Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (Ceca) in a ministerial statement on Tuesday.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), opposition party the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) aimed to discredit the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) by claiming the 2005 Singapore-India trade pact allowed “unfettered immigration” from India.

Ong told parliament that the claims had stirred up a lot of emotions among the local workers, who are currently facing challenges in the workplace, and that some “Ceca-themed websites” are filled with xenophobic views about Indian immigrants.

“Free trade pacts have become a keystone of the economic superstructure we have built,” said Ong.

“These deals have been made political scapegoats by the PSP to discredit the policy of the PAP government,” he said.

While the opposition party suggested that Indian nationals were given a “free hand” to obtain jobs in Singapore through Ceca, Ong added that the data showed it was not the case and that only 500 Indian nationals received jobs in 2020 through the pact.

The Straits Times, a Singapore-based publication, reported that foreign nationals do not have free access and must meet work pass conditions in order to obtain a job in Singapore. Also, dependants of the work pass holder must apply for their own work pass in order to apply for a job.

“The house should continue to debate robustly to help Singapore, but we must not inadvertently shake the big rock that has enabled Singapore to succeed,” said Ong.

“We cannot survive, we cannot earn a living without being connected to the world… Without being welcoming to the world,” he said.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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